Yay I hold a proper national title now!!! On Sunday, I won the national tri champs for the Olympic distance, held at Lochore Meadows down south!
After my nightmare race at the British champs, coach Fiona said why not attempt the Scottish standard 2 weeks later. I was apprehensive as I have done zero longer runs over the distance, and am only just getting back into swimming fitness for the sprint distance. She had the “what have you got to lose” eyes, so I accepted and thought the only way to be fit enough for this race would be to train right up to the day before, and have a 1.5 day taper!
To be honest, I’ve been pretty physically and mentally drained this past couple weeks and am really ready for a few days off, but I entered it anyway for a bit of fun.
At the start of last week, Kyle mentioned he might partake in the Scottish trail running champs because a) he was feeling fast, b) some of the guys he will be racing at Loch Ness marathon were doing it, c) it was near where my triathlon was going to be so we could find accommodation and make a(nother) weekend of racing!
Hotels were expensive last minute so we decided DIY would take priority, and he would go to his race and I would go to mine and whoever wasn’t racing would help with the decking.
Saturday comes, he goes to his race, I complain because I spend a day lifting heavy planks (and dropping them on my toes), only goes and WINS(!!!!!!!), then comes back to say he has a good feeling about this weekend and wants to go to my race too, then work on decking together the Sunday afternoon (race was at 8.30am so we would have the rest of the day for DIY).
***I was actually the proudest burd in the world on Saturday!! It’s his 1st overall Scottish title. The course suited him perfectly and, despite a 17 mile tough session on the Wednesday, he felt great and rocked it!***
Anyway, all this DIY meant I had no time for my pre-race prep (fake tan, nails, shave legs for 1st time since the last race…), but alarm was set for 4.01am (because God forbid we get up at 4am). I quickly showered to wake up, packed up the car, made my porridge, and Kyle kindly offered to drive us to McDonalds for a strong coffee that made us high as a kite!
When we arrived at the race around 7.30am, it felt like noon! I registered, sorted my stuff out for transition, changed and did a quick jog (maybe 5 minutes) before race briefing started at 8.15am. Setting up all the gear associated with a triathlon takes forever!
Before we knew it, it was time for a swim warm up. Hang on…why are men in my wave?!?! Cue a mild panic about me getting bashed around again like in Liverpool. Ugh, let’s just get on with it. I was at the start with the eventual men’s winner (Doug Roberts – he won by over 6 minutes!) and TS coach Andrew Woodroofe (who took the runner’s up spot!) and before we knew it, the countdown was on!
(Triathlon Scotland has used this as their cover photo – Doug is on my right)
When the gun went off, I ran as fast as I could to try and catch Doug’s feet for at least a sprint start to get away from the rest of the pack. Nope, silly Debbie – he is waaaaayyyyyyy faster than you. Back you go with the mass swimmers who with hit you on the head and pull in a way that pushes against your shoulders so you go backwards.
I was back at square one, and I could see 3 heads in the distance when I finally got my bearings back. Grrrr! I put in a surge to get away from the people I was swimming over/being swum on top of, and was in no man’s land for a bit…at least it was clear water! Turns out there was someone on my feet, but I never noticed the whole way. I just focussed on catching the person in front. In the 2nd lap of the swim, I bridged the gap and made the call to stay on his feet. I had no idea who it was, or even what place we were in the swim, so I took the gamble that hopefully I wasn’t left too far behind, and he was a good swimmer to stay on the feet of. I then kinda tuned out at this point. We were maybe 1km in, and in hindsight, it felt too easy. I probably should have fought and gone straight past him when I caught him, but at least it meant I was well rested for the bike?! Oops! Anyway, into he final 100m I pushed it a bit more, overtook him and exited the water in 3rd place, after Doug and Natalie Milne (who beat me to 2nd in the sprint distance champs this year). They had a pretty big gap, so I knew I would have to smash the bike to have any contention of being in with a win.
My wetsuit actually came off fine (thanks to Woodroofe for the baby oil – I knew I’d forgotten something!), and onto the bike has been worse, however, I had put toe covers on my shoes and hadn’t practiced with them!! I couldn’t get my foot in!! It wasn’t until I was out of the park before I was anywhere near! I lost quite a lot of time, and was fully expecting the girl in 3rd to overtake me at this point (Alice Jenkins – she won 1st female overall at Liverpool Olympic distance 2 weeks ago, so is one speedy cookie!). Luckily this didn’t happen and I pedalled away in no man’s land for a good 20 minutes.
Woodroofe couldn’t have come past me at a better time, as I was beginning to check out mentally. Craig Dale (eventual 3rd place) had overtaken me out of transition (ahh it was your feet I was on in the swim…thanks for the pull!) and I could barely see him in the distance. Andrew passed, giving me a “woop woop” in the process, then gave some coaching tips but had passed me too quickly for me to hear them! I just kept my sights on him and my competitive drive came back!
A couple more guys on proper TT bikes and tear drop helmets came whizzing past steadily throughout the rest of the ride, so I never felt “alone” any more and always had someone to chase (and fail). It was a non-draft event so even if I could have jumped on to their wheel, it wasn’t allowed, unlike in my Liverpool race.
The bike course was perfect for me! Not technical, pretty undulating (got out of the saddle a LOT!), and with nice views to distract me (although I never noticed Loch Leven…!). In the final mile, we went through the park a different way, over potholes, gravel, sand and speed bumps, so I didn’t have the confidence for a fast dismount BUT what I did have was inflated mojo when I saw Natalie exit transition just as I entered! Ooo this could be a fun run! My shoes went on fast, I remembered to take my helmet off this time(!) and out of transition I went.
The run course was (wrongly informed!) super flat around the loch. Twice. Not for the 1st 2xkm! It was up 2 hills! But I just focussed on relaxing up them and powering down them. I kept the group of runners ahead of me in my sights and was glad I could be the chaser. It was a windy route, so I didn’t actually see them that often but I was just hoping I was going fast enough to at least keep the distance between us the same.
(Don’t judge – I have had better looking days)
The marshals were all amazing and supportive, and it was getting warm (22C) so I made sure to splash myself with water at the aid stations. After 3km, it straightened and flattened out and I saw Kyle coming the other way (he was doing a 20 mile recovery run!!) cheering. This kept me going and I powered through to overtake superstar Nat at about the 4km mark. At that point, I didn’t look back and kept pushing in my 2nd lap so no one else could overtake me.
The 2nd lap was tough as I was really hot and didn’t have the run fitness. I just focussed on cadence (and what food and drink I was going to have to celebrate) to relax and with 1km to go, I attempted to surge, realised that wasn’t happening, so slogged my way to the finish. It was nice to hear the commentator saying I was going to win with about 200m to go because it meant no one was behind me, so I could ease in and enjoy winning my 1st national title!
At the end everyone was so friendly! I hung out with the Roberts bros (I was picking their brains as they are superstar triathletes!) while Kyle finished his run, which was perfect timing because when his 20 mile beeped the announcer called for presentations!
We left around 12pm and headed back up the road, stopping in Stonehaven for a chipper, as neither of us had had real food all day! When we got home, decking was continued, beer was consumed and it was nice to go to bed with both of us as champs 🙂
Ooo I do want to correct one thing, though. I was mentioned in a couple of social media posts saying I was a professional full time triathlete. That is so far from the truth! I work full time in a very busy and mentally challenging job, commute nearly 60 miles every single day, as well as trying to fit in my training. I am very proud of this and just want to clear it up 🙂
And of course the 1st one to congratulate me was good ol’ (yep, literally!) Noodles. After asking him where my well done was, he replied with:
I love the support he gives me.
Post race interview here! Don’t laugh too much…!